The SAE International J3016 standard codifies the “Levels of Driving Automation.” There are six levels, which go from 0 to 5. Within the nomenclature, SAE looks at the “Dynamic Driving Task,” or DDT, which includes later and longitudinal vehicle motion control, as well as a higher-level function, “object and event detection and response,” or OEDR. Level 1 driving automation encompasses motion control and “limited OEDR associated with vehicle motion control.” The driver is required to be in control of the vehicle with Level 1 automation. Level 1 automation includes the technologies that are encompassed under the acronym ADAS, for “advanced driver assistance system.” Much attention is paid to Levels 3, 4 and 5, wherein the driving automation, according to the standard, “performs the entire DDT (while engaged).”
Kay Stepper is vice president, head of the regional business unit Driver Assistance & Automated Driving at Robert Bosch LLC. And while he and his colleagues are most certainly working on the technologies for Level 3 and above, he notes, “We’re not jumping into autonomous vehicles right away,” and notes, “ADAS doesn’t get the attention that it deserves for saving lives and reducing injuries.”
Getting to Level 1
While ADAS isn’t as remarkable as a robo-taxi, it is not only a platform upon which higher levels of automation are based, but Stepper points out that even for ADAS “we have some ways to go when we look at real-world installation rates.”
Think about that for a minute: While there are claims from some OEMs and other technology companies and service providers that they’ll have fleets of autonomous vehicles rolling around by the end of 2019 or certainly in 2021, Stepper observes that as of 2019 there is still less than 50 percent installation rates of automatic emergency braking (AEB) and forward collision warning systems for new cars being built. Because of an NHTSA regulation that went into effect in 2018, rear backup cameras are required for all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds built for the U.S. One bright spot in this is that 20 OEMs—Audi, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Maserati, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo—have voluntarily agreed to equip the vehicles they build and offer in the U.S. with AEB by 2022.
An automatic emergency braking scenario.
Yet all that said, Stepper notes that given that the average age of a vehicle on the road today in the U.S. is 11.8 years, it is going to take some time before the fleet is turned over so that all vehicles have ADAS technologies.
However, there is an increasing demand for ADAS technologies on a global basis by OEMs because Stepper says that Bosch anticipates sales of some €2-billion in 2019, which is an increase from €1-billion in 2016.
But just what are the elements of ADAS systems?
First, the front. There are video cameras and radar sensors. The former, Stepper says, are good for things like classifying objects (car, truck, police car) and detecting road signs. But “like any sensing modality,” there are some challenges. In the case of cameras the challenges are presented by things like low-light conditions, which are not only caused by the time of day, but fog, heavy rain and snow. Which is one of the reasons why radar is deployed as it is not affected by illumination and only minimally affected by inclement weather. What’s more, radar has a longer range than camera-based systems, on the order of up to 250 meters. (Bosch has sold more than 20-million radar units since launching the products in 2000).
At the rear of the vehicle cameras and radar are also found. The cameras have use for the aforementioned backup warming systems; the radar is used for a variety of functions including blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert. Ultrasonic sensors are also used in the rear of the vehicle for park assist applications (as they have since the early 1990s).
Stepper says that near-range cameras (~10 meters range) can be applied to the side of the vehicle, not only for identifying vehicles a lane or two over, but to assist in low-speed parking applications.
One of the objectives of the sensor suites is to provide the driver with a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings, such as the actual view provided by cameras or detection provided by radar (he says there could be six radar sensors deployed on vehicles for full-surround detection) and ultrasonic sensors (perhaps as many as 12 on a vehicle).
Bosch found that even in several European countries the penetration of ADAS technologies are limited.
Stepper says that each of the types of sensors has its advantages (e.g., a radar system can detect an object and a camera can provide visualization to the driver of what that object is) and its best conditions for performance, so the use of more than one type is going to be the case for years to come.
One of the changes that has occurred in the sensor space is that over the past few years sensors and ECUs have become integrated. Stepper says that a current trend is to move to a centralized architecture, a driver-assistance ECU, that can take the inputs from several sensors and then run the algorithms required to assist the driver, whether that’s determining a road sign or performing automatic emergency braking.
But what about lidar? Yes, Bosch is working on this, and Stepper describes it as “a wonderful technology that we use for our automated driving efforts.” Which goes back to the higher SAE levels.
But for ADAS, Level 1, Stepper doesn’t see lidar happening for a number of years due to current technology limitations (e.g., the ability to deal with temperature extremes, shock and vibrations typical of the automotive environment) as well as economic limitations (e.g., lidar is expensive).
To prepare the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant to launch the Lincoln Navigator and the Ford Expedition last fall, Ford invested approximately $900-million in the facility, putting in more than 400 new robots (mainly in the body shop), creating a robot lab to support all of that automation, installing a data analytics hub that allows supervisors and workers to be more efficient, and even a 3D printer to quickly and cost-effectively create tooling. “The response from customers regarding our new full-size SUVs has been exceptional,” said Joe Hinrichs, president, Global Operations, so Ford is investing an additional $25-million in the plant to help amp up the production of the vehicles.
The touch-sensitive, safety-minded devices occupy a growing niche as manufacturers find new, truly collaborative applications.